TWM     DROUGHT  NZ,  1997-98

 
New Zealand News from The Press - March 18, 1999
WATER SHORTAGE PROBLEM
[Abridged]
Federated Farmers asked the Government to assist with finding solutions to expected future water shortages in drought-affected parts of New Zealand. Federated Farmers president, Malcolm Bailey said that they are very concerned by long-term National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) weather projections for the east coast of the South Island that indicate drier conditions over the next 30 years.
"In light of the serious problems experienced over the last 18 to 24 months in this region, we believe there is a need for water schemes and irrigation solutions to be investigated."
 
THE REAL (HIDDEN) COST OF THE DROUGHT
 
".... MAF policy analyst Chris Ward, says the consequences of El Nino were undervalued. Ward puts the total cost of the El Nino drought on farm gate returns at $500 million over this summer and last. That is about half a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) although the total effect on the economy can be multiplied by anything between three (Ward) and twelve (Federated Farmers)." 
Exerpt from the Listener -12 December 1998.

M BaileyThe above Listener extract highlights a curious anomaly relating to Malcolm Bailey's reply to an offer of help which was halfway (24 January 1998) through the period described. Mr Bailey stated that drought mitigation methods would cost "considerable sums of money" and rejected the offer without enquiring whether any charge would be imposed!

His spurious claim is compounded when the losses sustained by farmers and the national economy for the the period after our communication are calculated. If farmers could not afford drought mitigation in January 1998, then how could they afford the additional losses of $$ several hundred million by December? This inconsistency raises serious doubts about Mr Bailey's integrity and leadership. Farmers seeking to place blame for their economic woes need look no further than the ineptitude of their executive members. The drought was only part of the problem.

Could the real reason be that Mr. Bailey and Fed Farmers were afraid that TWM might be successful? Were they concerned that they might become dependent upon Indigenous technology to survive? Were they anxious to avoid the issue of ownership of the weather, and water as a by-product?

Whatever it was that Fed Farmers expected to achieve by ignoring the offer, they certainly paid a high price for it. But then, they are not the only organization to display cultural arrogance and insensitivity only to be deliberately frustrated by weather events that were beyond their control. Negative attitudes engender negative consequences.

This was TWM's first major exercise in prolonging drought.
 


Addendum:
Mr Bailey was appointed Special Agriculture Trade Envoy for New Zealand in July 1999.

Comment: Mr Bailey was given the above posting eighteen months after his decision to decline weather modification which incurred preventable drought costs of several billion dollars for the national economy.

 
Additional links:
Correspondence with Mr Bailey (1997- 98)
Another assessment of the 97- 98 drought (NZ Herald)
Drought situation in 2001
 
 
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